Comforting Words: 12/2009

Monday, December 28, 2009

Full Free in 2010

In the 44 years that I have been walking this Earth plane, I am hard-pressed to recall a New Year's resolution that I have kept for longer than a day.

This pastime that we have of making a list of vices that we resolve not to repeat in the upcoming year is hog wash. Sorry for my directness but having duped myself so many times into believing that I could vow not to overeat, lose weight, save money or some other folly of that nature makes me cynical on this score.

For several years now, New Year's Eve have found me envisioning, not vowing, a better path for my life. My decision to spend December 31 into January 1 praying, scanning magazines for images and creating a collage of my New Year started in 2006. It was a decision made in desperation but one of the best I have ever made.

Instead of dancing the night away with a bunch of drunks, looking to get laid (sorry for the frankness but it's the truth) by someone other than their partners, husbands or wives I spend my evening in the quiet of my home, usually alone with my dogs, praying for guidance and making a collage of the best me that I can see.

Yesterday (Sunday December 27) my husband said he wanted to hear a sermon. This was an unusual request, one that was partially prompted by my eliciting a promise from him to layoff Farmville (Facebok) for the day.

Actually, he wanted me to deliver the sermon as I have not done so in more than a year now. One of his proudest memories of me is sitting in the pews of a church listening to me preach and for some reason he wanted to be in the space again yesterday morning.

He agreed to watch Bishop T.D. Jakes instead on the computer.

As we prepared breakfast the worship service got underway at Potter's House, however, unlike many other services this one did not grab my attention. Well not until Bishop Jakes got into the meat and potatoes of his sermon.

"Kill it, destroy it…!" he shouted. "Then give praises!"

What the heck is he on about I thought.

"You cannot go into the New Year with the old year's baggage!" he was saying or something to that effect. By now he had my full attention.

Hash browns in my mouth watered down by my silent tears, I raised my hand when Bishop Jakes said, "I am preaching to somebody in here today!"

I didn't know about any of the well coiffed, high brow ladies and deaconess in the Potter's House but for sure I knew Bishop Jakes was talking out my business!

How many years have I been walking around with the pain of rejection, loneliness, abandonment, low self esteem, not feeling good enough, deep unhappiness despite the smile on my face? How many times have I fooled myself into believing that I have released an issue only to have it resurface across the oceans? How many vows have I made to do right the next year, eat less, exercise more, give unselfishly and never managed to achieve any of these?

I listened keenly to Bishop Jakes teaching all who cared to learn that until you "kill and destroy it," – the ghosts of the past that keeps haunting your now – you will not find real peace and meaning. The truth of his words stirred a memory.

Some many years ago I attended my first Burning Bowl Service in Kingston, Jamaica. It is a special service hosted by the Universal Centre of Truth for Better Living in January each year and participants are invited to write out and burn in a collective fire the issues of their hearts. I attended two of these services and have burned many pieces of paper in that bowl. I have even had my own private burning sessions, setting alight paper, pictures, cards, anything that would hold me in a past that I so badly needed to be free of.

Proverbs is possibly my favourite chapter in the bible and some of the best advice, at least to me, comes from the fourth chapter. My preferred translation is the New Revised Standard Version and these are some of the verses that I hold dear:

23Keep your heart with all vigilance,
   for from it flow the springs of life.
24Put away from you crooked speech,
   and put devious talk far from you.
25Let your eyes look directly forwards,
   and your gaze be straight before you.
26Keep straight the path of your feet,
   and all your ways will be sure.
27Do not swerve to the right or to the left;
   turn your foot away from evil.

In my opinion this is what Bishop Jakes was reminding me as I prepare to enter 2010. Enough of the meaningless New Year's resolution – it is time to kill and destroy the self-talk and thoughts that would take my eyes and feet away from the Journey. It is not enough to "let go." To begin to realize a deep seated freedom in my 45th year, it was time to "kill" the remnants of my bondage.

I know he was speaking the truth because since I have stopped the New Year's Eve night debauchery and spent the night in quiet reflection creating my vision board, things have been very different in my life. Just about every image that I have pasted on my collage has materialized – house, new vehicle, someone who loves me "more than cook food", marriage, vacation(s), career growth, etc.

Yet, some things are outstanding and cannot be mounted on any board.

"Full free" - as that would-be slave Cinque said in the movie Amistad, is what I am aiming for in 2010. And to be fully free requires killing those New Year's resolution prompted by society's notion of what is normal, beautiful or cool. Full freedom is even more than wearing my hair kinky and in a fro' because that is what I want to do. To me "Full free" is what Jim Morrison is quoted as saying:

"The most important kind of freedom is to be what you really are. You trade in your reality for a role. You trade in your sense for an act. You give up your ability to feel, and in exchange, put on a mask. There can't be any large-scale revolution until there's a personal revolution, on and individual level. It's got to happen inside first. You can take away a man's political freedom and you won't hurt him- unless you take away his freedom to feel. That can destroy him. That kind of freedom can't be granted. Nobody can win it for you."

On December 31, 2009 I will prepare, reflect and envision my journey to Full Free. My prayer for you my friends is that wherever New Year's Eve finds you ringing in 2010 you too will one day start your journey to "Full Free!"




Tuesday, December 22, 2009

No Offense but Merry Christmas Everyone!

Her bus arrives around 9:00 p.m. and the visit will be fairly short but that changes nothing. My baby girl will be home for Christmas, for a couple days, and that is all that matters.

The arguments continue again this year – whether we should say "Merry Christmas" or "Happy Holidays." It is a debate that has been raging for years, increasing as we become more politically correct and culturally diverse. It is a debate that I usually ignore but this year it has been a bit more difficult to tune out the raised voices.

When my daughter gets off that bus my greeting to her will most certainly be "Merry Christmas." While I am not a religious fanatic as those of us who continue to use this greeting is sometimes made out to be in my mind it is clear why we celebrate this season. 

I came across this very interesting quote recently from Marian Wright Elderman:

"My faith has been the driving thing of my life. I think it is important that people who are perceived as liberals not be afraid of talking about moral and community values."

In my 44 years life has taken me along some very winding roads. There were days when it was not clear whether I would go over a cliff or a new alley would open up. For many of those years it was the teachings, 'preachings' and life lessons of my mother , adopted aunts, and community elders that pulled me along.

It was only in my 35th year after entering the Universal Centre for Truth for Better Living in Kingston, Jamaica that I understood that the solutions, the hope; the Light was always in me. And as I came to believe this Light re-entered the world through the life, message and teachings of Jesus.

Christmas took on a different meaning to me soon after learning this Truth. I did not make any public declarations but I knew that, just as I honoured the birth of others who I respect, the birth of Jesus was more than a time to rack up my credit card debt.

My shopping for gifts and new bathroom decorations had not changed but the reason for doing these things did. I was no longer merely doing what everyone else was but expressing my deep appreciation for life, blessings, and the people who had journeyed with me. Christmas became a time for family, including those with whom the relationship was rocky. All hurts were put aside including those that were inflicted in the midst of the season, as we came to the table. And as corny as this might sound, like the Three Wise Men, I went the distance to give to people unknown to me.

Life has changed plenty since 1997, new roads and highways have opened up and the view has been incredibly painful at points and majestic in other places. What has not changed, however, is my belief that the Christ in me and in my fellow sojourners will see us through. My faith is definitely not blind – neither to the irony within the spiritual texts and teachers and even contradictions of the Church.

It is that faith, however, like Elderman's that reminds me that with the freedom that I enjoy come a responsibility to serve those around me. How that service looks might change depending on the circumstance of my life but one thing that never will is my ability to speak out on behalf of those who have been silenced. What has also not changed is not appreciating attempts to shut down those who hold a different view, belief, and way of life in the effort to be politically correct, liberal-minded and/or conservative.

So this Christmas as my family and I exchange gifts and enjoy the new decorations throughout the house, we will celebrate the birth of Jesus who, in my belief, reminds us that the Light is within each and every one of us. We will celebrate his birth, respectful of others beliefs but we will not put our Light under the proverbial bushel to make others comfortable in their own skins.

Merry Christmas to you my dear friends and readers!